How It Works

Meet the space courier


Is pesky gravity holding your research down? NanoRacks is the space concierge that can help your experiments become out of this world – literally.

A door-to-door service is always great but no one else yet offers a service quite like NanoRacks, who are the first commerical space company able to transport your research materials from the lab all the way to the International Space Station (ISS)! And the service doesn’t stop there. NanoRacks can operate your experiments using their very own research platforms inside the ISS – and they even have an attached external platform where materials can be exposed to the extremes of outer space! Seriously cool stuff.


NanoRacks research platforms are attached to the International Space Station. Credit: NASA


Can I do anything with my material once it’s in space?
You certainly can. By packing research material into small 10cm x 10cm metal cubes known as NanoLabs – which are connected to the research platforms by a simple USB port – experiments can be controlled using an internal circuit board and monitored via a video camera feed and a range of sensors found inside the NanoLab modules, allowing researchers to carry out their own microgravity research from the comfort of their office.


NanoRacks’ CubeSats are outfitted with additional hardware that can be used during the mission and released at mission’s end, where they burn up during atmosphere re-entry. Credit: NASA, NanoRacks


Is commercial use the future of the ISS?
It may well be. It’s still unknown how long the International Space Station will continue to operate; optimists are hoping to keep the station running until 2028, but countries are yet to commit to extending funding past 2020. Just getting 15 nations to work together on a $100 billion project is a monumental achievement and highlights how science can transcend politics, but some parties are unsure whether the station is worth another considerable investment. Adding more commercial companies and independent research to the mix could help raise funding and keep the ISS in orbit for longer.


Progress is one of the spacecraft used to deliver research materials to the ISS. Credit: NASA


Since its appearance as the first commercial space company NanoRacks has launched over 350 payloads, gaining a diverse customer base from NASA to primary schools in the process. And that’s ultimately why this new technology is so exciting – as space is now more accessible than ever before. So if you’ve got an experiment in your shed that could really benefit from leaving our atmosphere then fear not, as NanoRacks can get it there and back for you in just a year!


Click on the image for more detail on the workings of NanoRacks’ External Platform. Credit: NASA, NanoRacks, Honeywell, and Morehead State University




Discover more amazing space stories in the latest issue of How It Works. It’s available from all good retailers, or you can order it online from the ImagineShop. If you have a tablet or smartphone, you can also download the digital version onto your iOS or Android device. To make sure you never miss an issue of How It Works, make sure you subscribe today!

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